Monday 27 January 2014

Who Cares What Peter Tompa Thinks?

Over on the Cultural Property Observer blog, its host - believed to be one Peter Tompa the paid lobbyist of certain numismatic trade associations - decided he wanted to talk about the Heinrich Himmler letters stolen in May 1945 and later surfacing to feature in the tabloid press"Himmler Letters Now in Israel". He raises some point about whether where they should end up. The original post is then followed by a number of comments (11 in fact). In the first, Arthur Houghton asks him to post on his behalf some insultingly worded snipe at those who would prefer the stolen documents  to go to an archive housed with other related historical documents of the period in Germany (January 26, 2014 at 5:36 PM). This precedes a comment  (January 27, 2014 at 5:04 AM) from metal detectorist Dick Stout "explaining" to Mr Tompa's readers in provocative manner "what Mr Barford said" about the origin of these documents, though I wonder whether a lawyer's blog's readers actually need that explaining to them, especially by a metal detectorist.

Arthur Houghton comments again (January 27, 2014 at 8:30 AM). He begins with provocatively questioning what Mr Barford thinks about something he calls the "Auschwitz Panel" (painted - he says by "an SS guard" and removed from the monument at the end of the war - I suspect he is confused and is in fact referring to the Bruno Schulz murals from the Felix Landau house in Drohobycz - which is in Ukraine, not Poland. Arthur Houghton goes on in his comments to Peter Tompa's post to suggest that now the CPO blog has "exposed these little hypocrisies" (which ones he has in mind is left unclear), Mr Barford should make a list of the dodgy material Mr Houghton "knows" is in Polish museums so that "We can then decide how to act" as if Mr Houghton and his friends in Washington have any say in the matter of what Polish museums can and cannot curate. The very idea.

The happy slapping then continues with a comment by British metal detectorist John Howland. He chimes in with some obtuse arguing responding to my comment on the Monuments Men, "... the small group of Allied servicemen who in May 1945 were saving 'Monuments, Fine Art and Archives' for us all,..." which he seems not to have understood (January 27, 2014 at 8:40 AM):
Could this be,one wonders,the same mysterious and hush-hush Unit referred to by Mr Barford that beavered away close to where Allied servicemen slaved,starved and died building the infamous Burma Railway* - not to rescue them, but to rescue certain Burmese temples of certain 'trinkets'.
Well, obviously not because the Monuments Men operated in Italy, France, Belgium, Holland and (western) Germany not Burma, and the the Burma Railway was finished in 1943 and nobody was discussing Burmese temple ornaments. I fail to see the connection. This is typical metal detectorist logical non sequitur, apparently more ad hominem provocation rather than any serious attempt to add something to the discussion of the topic under consideration.

And so it goes on. A real dog's dinner. Mr Tompa published something about the repatriation of stolen historical documents and the braying starts, not about the case under discussion, but what a guest on Mr Tompa's blog allegedly thinks, or "should" do. His commentators are intent on fighting battles of their own, utilising his blog as their platform, but with scant reference to what Mr Tompa had himself written in the post to which they are commenting. Once again, Bailey and Ehrenberg 's lobbyist has allowed the discussion on his blog to get out of hand, and his standards slide. He is increasingly prone to allowing the comments on his blog become merely insults directed at other commentators which diverge totally from the subject of the post.

But then, is this not precisely what the "Cultural Property Observer" blog is for? Is that not what he is paid to do on behalf of the dugup antiquity sellers? What substantive point did Peter Tompa actual make about the newly surfaced stolen material in his three-sentence post? Is it actually worth trying to take the CPO blog at all seriously, or is it of no more value as a resource of information and informed opinion than the metal detecting blog to which Mr Tompa links at the bottom of his page?

There are fortunately other blogs to which one can turn for a much more professional approach to the topic, such as Rick St Hilaire's resource and, for example, the Art Law blog of Oostwaard Advocaten at

* We see here another expression of the xenophobic chauvinism so prevalent in discussions in these circles.  I have long suspected from his anti-Polish comments elsewhere that this particular British detectorist sees the world more from the perspective of gung-ho cinema and lurid spy novels than on an assessment of real historical (or indeed basic geographical) facts. In the construction of the Burma railway it is well-known that far more romusha (forced labourers of Asian origin) were employed and proportionally far more (nearly 50% of them in fact) died than Allied prisoners. This was a cheap, disrespectful and unworthy comment.

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